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Beach Flag & Water Safety

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Okaloosa County Flag Warning SystemLifeguards and Beach Flag Warning System

This system is in place for your water safety. Please observe and obey this Flag System. Rip currents can be unpredictable, dangerous and deadly. Please use good judgment and obey the lifeguards and flag warning system while swimming in the Gulf of Mexico.

Okaloosa County - Destin, Okaloosa Island

All Beach Safety Lifeguards are academy trained to the Advanced level of the United States Lifesaving Association's open water standard and are medically trained as First Responders in accordance with the U.S.D.O.T. & N.R.E.M.T national standard curriculum.  All Senior staff members are Florida certified Emergency Medical Technicians.  Beach Safety staff respond to a multitude of medical and trauma related emergencies as well as, effect surf rescue, and provide incident command during major incidents on the beach. Okaloosa County Beach Flag Information - Facebook

South Walton Beach Flag WarningsBeaches of South Walton - Sandestin, 30A

Lifeguarded beaches are available from mid-March through September, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. at regional public beach accesses including Inlet Beach, Santa Clara, Van Ness Butler, Jr., Blue Mountain, Gulfview Heights, Ed Waline, Dune Allen and Miramar Beach. Lifeguards are provided by South Walton Fire District and funded as a part of the Visit South Walton Safety Program. (Number of lifeguarded beaches, dates and times subject to change)

Beach Flag Warnings

  • Double Red Flag - Water Closed
  • Red Flag - High Hazard
  • Yellow Flag - Moderate Surf/Currents
  • Green Flag - Calm Conditions
  • Purple Flag - Dangerous Marine Life

General Rules of the Beach

  • Glass containers and littering are prohibited
  • Vehicles, dogs and bonfires require permits
  • Obey all beach flag warnings
  • LEAVE NO TRACE - Items left on beach overnight will be removed
  • Keep off the dunes
  • Removal of sand, water or vegetation is strictly prohibited

Water

Diving and Snorkeling Tips

All divers shall display a free-flying, 12 by 12 inch minimum, white diagonal stripe on a red background divers-down flag in the area in which the diving occurs. Divers shall attempt to stay within 100 feet of the divers-down flag on rivers, inlets and navigation channels.

Boaters should stay at least 100 feet away from a diver-down flag.

Divers shall not, except in case of emergency, display the divers-down flag in an area which would constitute a navigational hazard.

Jellyfish Stings

The Gulf of Mexico is home to some species of Jellyfish. However, the dangerous species such as the Man-Of-War are very rare in our area. To help diminish the pain most stings can be treated with ammonia poured over the skin or apply meat tenderizer or toothpaste to the affected area.

Rip Currents

Be aware that rip currents can occur during any kind of weather from stormy to calm and anytime throughout the year!  If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore until the current weakens, then swim in.  A rip current is a strong, localized flow of water moving out to sea from the beach and can be associated with large waves and/or high winds.

Sharks and Swimming

Information provided by the Florida Museum on Natural History.

The relative risk of a shark attack is very small but, risks should always be minimized whenever possible in any activity. The chances of having an interaction with a shark can be reduced if one heeds the following advice:

  • Always stay in groups since sharks are more likely to attack a solitary individual.
  • Do not wander too far from shore --- this isolates an individual and additionally places one far away from assistance.
  • Avoid being in the water during darkness or twilight hours when sharks are most active and have a competitive sensory advantage.
  • Do not enter the water if bleeding from an open wound or if menstruating --- a shark's olfactory ability is acute.
  • Wearing shiny jewelry is discouraged because the reflected light resembles the sheen of fish scales.
  • Avoid waters with known effluents or sewage and those being used by sport or commercial fisherman, especially if there are signs of bait fishes or feeding activity. Diving seabirds are good indicators of such action.
  • Sightings of porpoises do not indicate the absence of sharks --- both often eat the same food items.
  • Use extra caution when waters are murky and avoid uneven tanning and bright colored clothing --- sharks see contrast particularly well.
  • Refrain from excess splashing and do not allow pets in the water because of their erratic movements.
  • Exercise caution when occupying the area between sandbars or near steep drop-offs --- these are favorite hangouts for sharks.
  • Do not enter the water if sharks are known to be present and evacuate the water if sharks are seen while there. And, of course, do not harass a shark if you see one!

(Reprinted, with emendations, from: Burgess, G.H. 1991. Shark attack and the International Shark Attack File, pp. 101-105. In: Gruber, S.H. (ed.). 1990. Discovering Sharks, American Littoral Society, Highlands, New Jersey)

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

Snorkel by land: Snorkel from the beach at Destin jetties or from the Old Crystal Beach Pier.

Snorkel by boat: Spend a day on one of our many snorkeling boat services that provide a full package snorkeling adventure beyond our shore line.

Scuba: Divers will enjoy the waters which offer 40-100 foot visibility. The natural and artificial reefs in the area provide excellent viewing of many types of marine life. A natural coral encrusted limestone outcroppings starts just three miles from the Destin Pass. Some ledges are up to 10' in height, with a depth range of 80 to 130 feet. Certification is required for divers.

Rules: All divers shall display a free-flying, 12 by 12 inch minimum, white diagonal stripe on a red background divers-down flag in the area in which the diving occurs. Divers shall attempt to stay within 100 feet of the divers-down flag on rivers, inlets and navigation channels.

Divers shall not, except in case of emergency, display the divers-down flag in an area which would constitute a navigational hazard.


Boating

Don't Drink and Drive

Boating while intoxicated is a criminal offense punishable by fines up to $2,500, imprisonment of up to one year, non-paid public service, and mandatory substance abuse counseling. The law provides for mandatory sentencing. If a drunken operator kills or causes serious bodily injury to another person, the penalty is five years in state prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

By operating on Florida waterways, you are deemed to have given consent to be tested for alcohol if arrested for operating under the influence. Refusal to submit to a test will result in the assessment of a $500 civil penalty.

Fourteen and Older to Operate a Personal Watercraft

Persons less than 14 years of age shall not operate a Personal Watercraft.

Florida's water safety laws, effective 1996, allow 14-year-olds to operate Jet Skis or other personal watercraft. However, in order to rent one, you have to be 16-years-old, plus anyone 19 or younger must have a boater education card.

Each person on a Personal Watercraft (PWC) must wear a Coast Guard approved PFD. Additionally, the operator must wear a lanyard type cut off switch provided by the manufacturer which will shut off the PWC should the operator fall off.

The operator of a Personal Watercraft should operate in a reasonable and prudent manner. This includes being aware of other boats in the operating area, awareness of environmental concerns and respecting the rights of shoreline property owners. The PWC operator should not follow other boats closely and should not jump the wake of other boats.

Lookout For Our Manatee

Every boater within the State of Florida should be forever mindful of the endangered manatee. One should operate in a prudent manner in and around known manatee habitats and should be cognizant of, and obey, designated manatee zone areas.

Personal Flotation Devices

Every child under 6 years of age must wear a USCG approved PFD on a vessel less than 26' while the vessel is underway.

PWC operators and passengers must wear an approved Type I, II, III or V PFD.

Required personal floation devices must be readily accessible.

Water Skiing Tips

No person shall tow a person on water skis, aquaplane or similar device without an observer aboard or wide-angle rear view mirror.

In addition each person engaged in water skiing or aquaplaning must wear a U. S. Coast Guard approved PFD.

Water skiing is not permitted between the hours of one-half hour after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise.

Watch Your Speed

No vessel shall be operated within Florida in a reckless or negligent manner. Examples of reckless or careless operation include:

  • Excessive speed in regulated or congested areas
  • Operating in a manner that may cause an accident
  • Operating in a swimming area with bathers present
  • Towing water skiers where obstructions exist or a fall might cause them to be injured
  • Bow riding or riding on the gunwale or transom where no seating is provided
  • Operation of a personal watercraft which endangers life or proper

When To Report An Accident

Any accident involving death, disappearance or personal injury, or damage greater than $500 must be reported. A "boating accident" includes, but is not limited to, capsizing, collision, foundering, flooding, fire, explosion and the disappearance of a vessel other than by theft. Accidents should be reported immediately. Report accidents to the nearest office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.


Weather

Sun Block and Water Reflection

Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors, and don't skimp on the amount, experts advise. An average-size person should use about 2 tablespoons per application, which should be repeated according to the manufacturer's directions.

The sun's damaging UV rays can bounce back from sand, snow, or concrete; so be particularly careful in these areas.

Sun Tips

The sun's rays are the strongest between 10 am and 4 pm.

Most of the sun's rays can come through the clouds on an overcast day; so use sun protection even on cloudy days.

The American Cancer Society recommends the following tips...Slip! Slop! Slap!

  1. Slip on a tightly woven shirt to block out the sun.
  2. Slop on sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher 20 minutes before going outside.
  3. Slap on a hat with a brim wide enough to protect your face and neck.

Weather Changes and Coastal Storms

Do as the locals do and watch the skies. Florida is known as the "Sunshine State" and our skies can change very quickly. In the heat of the summer, late afternoon thunderstorms can roll in. These storms are usually very short in nature and can carry a punch. Protect yourself and your family by following some basic guidelines.

  • Check the local forecast daily -- then make your plans.
  • Monitor the skies for quick moving dark clouds.
  • Have a "Safety Plan" for the entire family before a storm arrives.
  • If you are in the water, go to land immediately and take shelter.
  • Choose a building over a car for shelter.
  • Keep windows closed if in a car.
  • If no shelter is available, find a low lying area away from trees, poles or other objects that conduct electricity.
  • Squat down (do not lie down) in a tucked position and wait for the storm to pass. Limit your points of contact to the ground to just your feet.
  • Stay off of phones and away from plumbing.

Our storms are usually fast moving. Once they have passed, have a fun and safe vacation.

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